Lempad of Bali: The Illuminating Line, the first catalogue raisonné of the work of internationally acclaimed Balinese artist Gusti Nyoman Lempad (~1862–1978), was recently published to accompany the first retrospective exhibition of his drawings. The exhibition continues at the Museum Puri Lukisan in Ubud, Bali through 24 November.
At 424 pages with more than 500 reproductions of Lempad’s drawings, the large-format book is a groundbreaking work of discovery. Essays by six distinguished scholars of Bali, explore Lempad’s life, work, and death; his sources of inspiration; his drawing style and technique; and the cultural and historical context of Hindu-Buddhist stories, art, and religion related to his work. Relatively few of these Lempad drawings have been published before as much of this work left Bali in the 1930s with the departure of European and American collectors.
“Lempad witnessed Bali’s history over more than 100 years from pre-colonial times to the beginning of mass tourism. Yet his work is still so modern that it carries important lessons about the future of Balinese art and the depth of its roots in the island’s culture”, said Soemantri Widagdo, chief curator at the Puri Lukisan and a co-author of Lempad of Bali.
“Our research was a detective story. We found early drawings that have not been seen in Bali since before World War II. We were able to track down work in museums and private collections all over the world. One knowledgeable person led to another. Library and museum archives and auction records revealed surprises and lost drawings. It was exhilarating to find surviving work across four continents”.
The exhibition and book “brought Lempad back to Bali”, said David Irons, an independent curator who works with the museum. "More than 1000 people were at the opening, including hundreds of artists young and old, who came from all over the island to welcome him home”.